I just saw this article on BBC News (you can also find similar articles on Jerusalem Post and Haaretz through links on BBC) about an Israeli man who has just been granted his eleventh (yes, 11th) divorce by the rabbinical courts.
He has had eleven marriages deliberately and plans to continue defrauding women into cheap relationships through the lure of a rabbinic blessing. He does not work, and has failed to pay child support to his one son. His most recent ex cites his squandering of her assets and amassing of debt as reasons for the divorce. Yet, despite all this, the court has praised the man for using the “proper” religious avenue for every one of his divorces.
In my opinion, a religious court that would allow a man that many opportunities to show that he does not take the covenant of marriage seriously has no authority to grant divorce or allow marriage. A marriage involves vows made not only to one’s prospective spouse, but to the Creator who made the marriage possible as well. Entering a marriage without intending to maintain it in good faith indefinitely offends both recipients of such vows.
Moreover, in today’s troubled times, any woman wishing to marry owes it to herself, her family, and her potential offspring to know exactly what sort of man to whom she intends to bind herself. She needs to do research to verify what the man tells her, and if he tells her nothing of his own accord, that should be warning enough. This is especially true of women subject to the rabbinical courts, as their marriage options are limited by the court once they have undergone a divorce. I cannot help but wonder if this man’s most recent eight ex-wives were ignorant, manipulated, or mercenary in some way of their own.
However, the greatest blame lies with the rabbinical court. By prioritizing its procedures and Talmudic commentary over the mental and financial welfare of the community, the rabbinic court has shown itself to be a completely illegitimate institution. It does not carry out justice. It does not enforce identifiably religious values. It does not encourage morality in the community it serves. It simply exists to perpetuate itself.